The Best Food Trucks & Carts In NYC
16 trucks and carts where you can get an incredible meal for less than $10 in NYC.
Like butterflies or Hinge dates with someone who only communicates in sarcasm, many food trucks are ephemeral. One minute, they’re on 54th Street. And the next, poof, they’re gone. But we’ve tracked down all of our favorite food trucks around the city and noted exactly where to find them these days. These trucks and carts are making some of the very best Bangladeshi, Mexican, and Ethiopian food in the city. Plus, most of our favorite meals cost less than $10.
Sadly, Covid-19 has been disastrous for food trucks. Street vendors don’t have the same access to government aid as many hospitality workers do (like loans, paid sick leave, or unemployment insurance). The Street Vendor Project is raising money for its thousands of members during Covid-19 (90% of whom are immigrants of color, and typically rely on New York City’s heavy foot traffic to make sales). You can check out the incredible fundraising and advocacy work The Street Vendor Project is pursuing here, and use this list to show love to some of the best food trucks around the city.
It’s a good thing Birria Landia has its four wheels fastened to Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights because otherwise someone may attempt to tow the truck away in an elaborate taco heist deserving of its own stress-inducing, Safdie brothers script. The endlessly juicy, Tijuana-style stewed beef that’s featured in every one of the menu’s four dishes will cause you to consider such ridiculous things. If we could only pick one NYC taco to eat for the rest of our lives, it’d be the orange, crunchy-soft taco from Birria Landia. Bring about $15 so you can try their birria in all of its forms, including the adobo-rich consomme in a paper cup. In case you’re closer to Williamsburg, Birria Landia now has a second truck on the corner of Metropolitan and Meeker that’s open until 1am every day except Sunday.
We heard about Mystikk Masala through the corporate Midtown grapevine, which is a resource not to be underestimated when it comes to electric scooter and food truck knowledge. Lately, this excellent Indian truck has been parked at 54th and Park Avenue, and you can follow their regular updates on Facebook to confirm their location before committing. Stop by for some lunchtime biryani or the chana masala platter, which comes with a spicy sauce, daal, and rice on the side. On the off chance you need a 2pm samosa pick-me-up instead of a $5 iced coffee, that’s also an acceptable way to use this truck.
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Whether you’re in Brooklyn, Queens, or Manhattan, take comfort in knowing that you can get to a Makina truck without having to cross a river. All three trucks serve Habesha food, which implies both Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisine. No matter which protein you choose for lunch (we like the beef tibs or the vegetable combo option), get the injera as your base. Makina’s injera is heavily fermented, sour, and you’re inevitably going to want more of it to sop up your gomen and miser. The original truck is parked at Fort Greene Park Monday through Saturday from 11am to 9pm, but you can also find Makina trucks outside of Rockefeller Center in Midtown and on 30th Street in LIC.
The Halal Guys
Halal Guys is so notorious that they’ve had to sue impersonator businesses trying to cash in on their street cred. Which, incidentally, only gives them more street cred. The original carts in Midtown have been around since 1990, and to this day it’s somewhat required that all meat-eating New Yorkers order the cart’s halal chicken or lamb over rice platters every so often. Not just because it’s famous, but because it’s delicious, filling, and costs $6. Whichever protein you choose (we like chicken), it’s imperative you nod and smile when the cart workers ask about the addition of white sauce, a slightly-sour yogurt dressing that’s as much of a star as the meat itself. Don’t get too cocky with their bright red hot sauce, its spicy punch will easily overpower the other flavors of your lunch.
NY Dosas is pretty much just as legendary as Halal Guy’s, only there’s one location, with just one dosa man (named Thiru Kumar, who is a legend in his own right), and the menu is completely vegan. This lower Manhattan fixture serves South Indian staples like vegetable-and-curried-potato-filled dosas, roti, and samosas every day (except for Sunday) from 11am to 3pm out of a little cart by the dog run in Washington Square Park. All of the dosas are served with coconut chutney and sambar, and you can pay with cash or Venmo.
Here are two Midtown rules to live by: avoid walking with Airpods over a subway grate, and always say yes when the person inside of the Jerk Pan truck asks if you want gravy. This Caribbean food truck right next to the J.P. Morgan building makes excellent platters of oxtail or jerk chicken and rice and beans, all covered in a salty delicious gravy. We usually opt for the $8 “mini” lunch special which gets you a small styrofoam box filled to the brim, but there are also medium and large platter options that cost around $11-$13, and come with a few different containers for sides like cabbage, greens, and macaroni salad.
This Bangladeshi food truck in Jackson Heights is always parked outside of the Duane Reade on 73rd Street, and it’s where you should be going to eat incredible fuchka. Each order is served with a wreath of puffed puri that’s been filled with boiled yellow peas and potatoes, and topped with raw red onions and shaved egg yolks. When you get your fuchka, spoon a little bit of tamarind water on each one before you pop it in your mouth. Between the sweet tamarind, the sharp raw onions, and the hot mash of peas and potatoes, this is one of our favorite food truck snacks we’ve ever eaten in NYC. In case you’re closer to Jamaica, Queens, Tong also has a truck there.
King Souvlaki of Astoria
A while ago, a friend started dating a guy who lives in Astoria. More accurately, he lives and breathes Astoria, and once told us that there was no better Greek food truck in all of NYC than King Souvlaki. This truck on 31st Street and 31st Avenue is indeed the best place to eat chicken souvlaki pita sandwiches stuffed with French fries and white sauce, as well as charred, homemade lamb sausages on sticks. Don’t think of this as just another gyro truck, King Souvlaki is a serious institution. They even have their own ATM built into the vehicle.
Tacos El Bronco
The Tacos El Bronco truck on 5th Avenue in Sunset Park churns out tacos that easily compete with the best in the city. The tortillas themselves are tiny, which creates the perfect ratio of filling to tortilla. Order the rich, veal cabeza and a few carnitas tacos, and make sure to cover them all in green tomatillo salsa. One more important thing: stand up while you eat your tacos - tacos from a truck scientifically taste better that way.
Ling's Fresh Made Sweet Mini Cakes
If you’ve ever walked through Manhattan’s Chinatown during the day, you’ve probably been overtaken by the smell of warm, fried dough on the sidewalk near the corner of Mulberry and Canal. That’s Ling’s, a cart that’s been serving soft, spherical dough puffs since 1982. We like to keep it simple and order the original, which cost $1.50 and comes with 15 piping hot cakes in a white paper bag. But Ling’s also sells mini cakes covered in condensed milk and chocolate syrup, if you want to really shake up your life.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Jackson Heights is home to the best Nepalese food anywhere in the five boroughs, including what’s happening at this big white truck on 74th Street. Amdo is a great spot to grab some quick momos (chicken or beef), as well as noodles, fried rice, and the titular item, amdo (circular, thick Tibetan bread). There’s also a little counter on the side where you can stand and eat your food. Don’t ignore the hot sauce you’ll find in squeeze bottles there - you want that on your momos.
Shúkos serves Guatemalan food that will make you forget all of the other lunches you ate in the same week. Most of the menu is made up of sandwiches (called Shúkos), but our favorite order here consists of the papas shúkas with steak, which comes with a pile of fries topped with mayo, grilled meat, and salsa dulce on top. Shúkos bounces around from the Bronx to Midtown East, but lately they’ve been posted up at East 75th Street and 2nd Avenue on the UES.
In pre-pandemic times, it wasn’t uncommon to see 40+ people standing in line to get some Greek food from this truck in Midtown East. For good reason, $7 will get you a lamb gyro or platter to show off to everyone in a 50-yard radius. They’re still posted up on 51st and Park Avenue every day, and (sadly) the line may be invariably shorter these days.
Indian King Biryani House
If a tourist ate at Indian King Biryani House’s cart, they may wrongly assume that all halal carts serving biryani are fantastic enough to write emails home about. But this cart near Trinity Church in FiDi is special. Their rice dishes taste distinctly saffron-forward and full of nutmeg, not to mention they’re topped with tender meat that falls apart with the slightest nudge of a plastic fork. Ask for the chicken biryani with plenty of white and red sauce on top.
Patacon Pisao now has locations in Elmhurst and the Lower East Side, but it all started at this food truck on 202nd Street in Inwood. Like the other locations of this casual Venezuelan spot, the focus here is on the patacon - a sandwich that swaps bread for plantains that’s then filled with beans, fried cheese, special sauce, and your choice of meat. Get the one with grilled steak and chorizo.
After pondering this guide for a few minutes, you may have noticed by now that Jackson Heights is home to food truck royalty. Another example of the neighborhood’s crown-power is this Tibetan truck on Broadway. Mom’s Momo makes both fried and steamed momos, each with a plump, thick exterior and vegetable, beef, or chicken filling. Our favorite is the fried, beef variety doused in a combo of spicy, red chili sauce and white sauce to cool you off. You need both for full effect. Mom’s also has a location off of Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside, in case that’s more convenient to you.